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Watain - Casus Luciferi
Review: From the variation on a Mayhem riff that begins this album to its closing note, Watain clarify their position on black metal as a development of the sensibilities of the early Nordic years, but in doing so straddle a dangerous line: at some point, stripping black metal down to simpler riffs and more familiar song patterns takes away its aspirations of grandeur and renders it as melodic pop immersed in jagged riffing. Much of what those early bands captured was a sonic ugliness and randomness that made itself useful in the recounting of experience like poetry, where an initial concept mutated until it showed what held it back from fully developing and then, with a flurry of nihilistic violence conquering that, dove home into its gratifying full version of initial concept, resolving its fundamental questions in the height of its madness.
That paradox is missing here; songwriting is closer to that of Dark Funeral or later Dissection in that it rocks along nicely as a sequence of beautiful sounds wrapped around basic riffs, convolving around a central concept that is evident from the first, and flowering through technique on a linear level. There is not much mystery here, although every minute of it is well-crafted and thanks to superior production sounds immaculately corrupt, and the result brings black metal closer to pop: consistency in musical expression balanced against a few moments of offbeat contemplation, ultimately aiming at gratification of aesthetic promise in a repeated, wallpaperlike pattern.
Undoubtedly some of the most talented players in the genre today, this band would do better to go further into the roots of this music and uncover the mantle of ambiguity under which it would gesture, but never wholly gratify, the impulse toward a morbid freedom from comfort and balance. If this band were to realize that the best poetry comes from uncertainty and a journey farther away from safely consistent patterning, they could make of this style one possible savior for the ailing genre of black metal.